All the Holidays, Half the Price (or Less!)

half price holidays

Your vacation dream begins. You see a program, read an article, talk to a friend about their trip to magnificent such and such country/island/themed destination, and decide you’re going to have to go and see it for yourself. But wait, you’re on a solid budget – how is this adventure going to fit into your financial state and plans?

Not to worry, it’s research time.

There are plenty of ways to have a perfectly wonderful vacation to your dream-spot on a budget. Plan for plenty of time to shop around online, and keep it simple, like this list.

Getting From Here to There and Around

  • First, look diligently for the cheapest flights – they’re out there whether you’re planning a trip years in advance, or for the upcoming weekend. The middle ground here is not so great for finding deals - a couple of months before your trip is primetime territory for expensive flight costs. Watch out for high-season travel, it’s always more expensive, sometimes much more. And sign up for one of those travel-alert notices. Set it up to notify you about deals to anywhere you think you might want to go, see what comes up cheapest and first, and go there.
  • Once you’ve hit the ground, unless you’ve opted for an all-inclusive resort or cruise, you’ll need to pick a way to cruise around. You’ve got options, believe me: bus cards; Eurail passes, single-ticket trains, cheap inter-country or island flights (sometimes very, very low), car hire/rental/purchase-buyback programs, bicycling, and in a few hold-out-for-safety places, your hitchhiking thumb. You all know the warnings on that one.

Time for Sleep

We all have our maximum comfort requirements - it’s something like the Ritz. Fortunately for the world of budget travel, there are minimum accommodation requirements for nearly everyone’s practical needs. Know your range both amenities and budget-wise, research your options before you go, and be prepared to find something cooler, cheaper, or both once you get there. Consider your many choices - from all levels of hotels, to couch surfing, to al fresco camping.

Cheap Eats

  • Cooking where you stay is the best way to save on food costs. Just look for accommodation with a kitchen, or ones that let you cook there. (Some hostels do, for example, and there are great family-friendly ones around.)
  • If savoring full-on local flavors without having to do the dishes sounds especially delicious, look on the many travel/food blog sites for recommendations. Once you arrive at your destination, just find out where the locals go - you’ll often get better quality for half the price, or less.
  • Bring or buy your own snacks.

Get Thee to Your Budget

Be a bit flexible, but do have an idea about how much you have to spend. And unless you’re a seasoned traveller or keep track naturally in your head, write down what you’re spending – it’s the little things like tourist-priced souvenirs and not bringing your own liquid travel containers that can give you bank-statement sticker shock when you come back home. Also, look out for vacation package deals - you can save big with these, and it makes budgeting a lot easier.

Show Me the Money

If you’ll need to exchange currency, plan ahead to avoid the extra mark-up and fees you’ll pay at airports and other tourist funnels. It is best to exchange enough for a day or two at your local bank before you go, then find out where the low-cost exchange houses are after you arrive and scope out your neighborhood.

Miscellaneous Moolah

  • If you’ll be using your phone or smartphone while traveling, unless you have an international plan, turn off your roaming charges before you go. Consider buying a local SIM card and definitely use free wi-fi communication apps like Skype if you have them.
  • Weigh the cost/benefits of Tourist Discount Cards.
  • Pack light – for all kinds of reasons.

You know the old adage “If you’ve seen one Picasso you’ve seen them all.” Well that’s not true, but you can certainly get a taste of many well-known (and unknown!) artists at lesser-known and less expensive local museums and art galleries. Don’t skip the Louvre or the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, but do read the local papers on the lookout for free and inexpensive venues.


    • DC @ Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 07/26/2013 6:58 a.m. #

      Great tips, Sicorra! I am looking into taking a cheap trip for my wife and my two year anniversary, so I will keep these tips in mind.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 07/26/2013 11:15 a.m. #

        I guess not every trip has to a cruise, right? ;-)

        You can definitely have a nice vacation without spending all kinds of cash, just takes some shopping around.

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 07/26/2013 10:04 a.m. #

      I'm more of a Ritz kind of gal and our bank account is the Holiday Inn ;) I'm not the outdoorsy type but I'm willing to give camping a try :)

      I also like the idea of checking with the locals for restaurants. It's the ones that look like a whole in the wall that have the best food and prices!

      These are great tips Sicorra. You showed us we can have a great time without the worry of overspending. TGIF girlfriend! Let's catch up soon!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 07/26/2013 11:14 a.m. #

        I like your line! I am a Ritz kind of gal too!!
        People use to say their idea of camping was the Holiday Inn.

        I love the idea of local restaurants esp if they make their food from scratch.

        Camping can be a lot of fun! My favorite time is first thing in the morning before everyone wakes up, and you go outside and it is quiet and just feels fresh.

    • krantcents

      krantcents 07/26/2013 11:35 a.m. #

      I usually use airline frequent flier miles for flights , particularly when traveling overseas. I started to use a hotel card for hotels last year. One of the best ways to beat the exchange rate overseas is to use your ATM at a correspondent bank to your home bank. You will get the best rates.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 07/26/2013 4:26 p.m. #

        Hotel cards for hotels that you frequent are very nice, esp when you combine them with air miles, and practically get a free trip out of the deal.

    • Tanya @ The Heavy Purse

      Tanya @ The Heavy Purse 07/26/2013 12:11 p.m. #

      I remember the first time I ever stayed at a Ritz Carlton. It was for work. The best part was when I paid the bill - with my Corporate Credit Card. LOL! Travel isn't cheap but if you take your time you definitely score some great deals. Beyond going to visit my family, I don't have any real big travel plans but maybe I should start thinking about next year and making some plans to keep motivated -- and looking for great deals! Have a great weekend!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 07/26/2013 4:29 p.m. #

        Oh Tanya, You just reminded me of how much I miss my corporate card when it comes to travel! Those days were nice. Have a great weekend too!

    • The Guy

      The Guy 07/28/2013 4:45 a.m. #

      Very good article with some good tips. I'm currently travelling in Melbourne and have a serviced apartment. I love having the kitchen in my apartment so I can cook and avoid expensive and time consuming meals out. Australia has lots of these places and you can stay from one night to as long as you want.

      Also like krantcents I use frequent flyer miles and hotel points, well worth collecting in my mind.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 07/28/2013 4:55 p.m. #

        It sounds like you have a great set-up. Being able to cook some of your meals when you travel, especially if you enjoy cooking, is a wonderful way to save money. And by saving that money a person can travel more often, or for a longer period of time, if they wish too.

    • Tara @ Streets Ahead Living

      Tara @ Streets Ahead Living 07/30/2013 10:49 a.m. #

      Great tips! I'm of the paranoid type that likes to buy my tickets early but I know good deals can often be had 6 weeks prior to departure date.

      One tip I learned from studying abroad is that if you have a bank that doesn't charge you to use an ATM outside of it's network, don't even bother exchanging money. Just use an ATM in that country and you only pay the 1% exchange rate. I don't recommend doing this in developing countries but if you're going to Europe for example, this is the way to go.

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